The Need for a Book Synopsis to Clear the Brain

Journaling about Spring

Did you ever get to the point that you’ve been looking at the same material over and over and perhaps it was time to step back and analyze it?

            I’ve gotten to that point, and I think that a book synopsis is just the thing to clear my brain to see the manuscript as a whole, to see the turning points and character growth.  To see what I have learned attending college for ten of my children’s growing up years.
            There’s so much information online about synopses.  I started with a post by Laurel Cohn which gave me general guidelines to set up a book synopsis, like keeping the word count under 500.  But what to include…
            I stared at my 14 chapters until my eyeballs fell out.  I knew I still needed to divide some of the latter chapters.  Finally, I decided to describe a few turning points in the synopsis and assure the publishers that I did complete my bachelor’s degree at the University of Pennsylvania.  Then I asked my good friend Jennifer M. Eaton to look at it.  As an experienced Y.A. novel writer, she knows about synopses.
She asked me one important question.  “Where’s the humorous voice?”
Leave it to the experienced writer to see through my thin veil of knowledge.
Simple solution:  Describe the college journey through my humorous voice in the synopsis.  Sounds easy.  It’s not.
Luckily I had made topic sheets for each chapter so I knew at a glance where I had covered what in my memoir.  I found the anecdote about driving the children to the dentist for checkups and trying to tell them about the psychology I was learning.  This helped me study.  However, Pavlov’s dogs were easier to train.  The children kept pushing each other in the van and interrupting me.
I made study tapes for courses to listen to at the children’s swim meets, but then my ear jack disengaged and everyone heard about the horror of Holocaust during the dive competition.  My husband told me I wasn’t allowed to bring the study tapes to the kids’ events when he was present.  I combed the topic sheets for other gems to relate what I hoped was my humorous voice in the memoir.
Why all this angst about writing a book synopsis at this time?  HarperCollins is seeking submissions and no agent is required.  They want adult fiction, romance, young adult fiction, memoir, illustrated non-fiction and more.
A bit more tweaking of the memoir and I’ll be searching for some beta readers.  Would anyone like to read a portion of my memoir or the whole thing?  No rush…unless HarperCollins comes to call.

20 thoughts on “The Need for a Book Synopsis to Clear the Brain”

  1. I am not a fan of the synopsis. At all. But I know it's a good exercise to figure out what's important to mention and what you can leave out. Making it not sound like a play-by-play is key. Don't need every plot thread and character in the synopsis. But I find queries much easier to capture voice.

  2. The synopsis is not my favorite thing, but sometimes we must do it, right? I know what you mean about being tired of reading something. Like you, it helps me to step away and get a change of perspective. My critique partners are a big help in this area too. Wishing you well with this!:)

  3. Thank you for this insight, Theresa. There are so many nuanced differences in how to create a synopsis, from what I learned on the internet and then suggestions from fellow writer friends. But everything I've learned seems to agree with what you're saying about not including every thread and character, just the main turning points. The voice still seems to be an issue in synopsis when a query letter is not called for. Thanks so much for visiting my Adventures in Writing blog. It is greatly appreciated. Oh, and by the way, this was my first synopsis. It was tough. I've written query letters for my short stories, but not a book length…yet. Thanks again for visiting.

  4. Thank you so much, Karen, for visiting my Adventures in Writing blog and leaving a comment. As I told Theresa above, this was my first synopsis, and it was tough. However, stepping back to look at my manuscript as a whole and finding the key turning points and character growth to show in a synopsis, and then boiling the memoir down into a key sentence helped me to consider the whole in a new light. Thanks again, Karen, for sharing your insight on Adventures in Writing. It is greatly appreciated.

  5. Thank you so much, Michelle! This is greatly appreciated. I'm hoping to have the memoir together for beta readers the week after Easter. Thanks again for stopping by Adventures in Writing and leaving a comment. It is greatly appreciated.

  6. Thanks, Marie. I submitted the synopsis and first three chapters, yesterday, March 24th after posting this blog post. Here's hoping. I'll continue to pray and keep you posted. Love you too, my dear. Thanks for stopping by Adventures in Writing and leaving a comment.

  7. Nuts! I know that the submission link is only active when we [our area] can submit to them. I was telling Marie above that I submitted yesterday, March 24th after posting my blog post and it worked, or at least I received the standard "Thank you for submitting your book proposal and manuscript to the HarperCollins Wednesday Post." I did this through Chrome.

    Everything else stuck except the e-mail address? That's odd, Theresa, although I'm not tech savvy. Today's March 25th and I bet the submission's link will not be active. Perhaps you can try again on Tuesday as that seems to be when it is active for the east coast of US. Let me know how you make out. As I said before, you are an awesome writer, and I'm sure they'd be interested in your YA book or whatever you decide to submit.

  8. You are right, Lynda, I thought creating my synopsis for my memoir about attending college as a mother of five was very helpful in getting me to see the journey boiled down to its main elements. …I hope I did it right. Thanks so much for visiting my Adventures in Writing blog and leaving comments. They are very much appreciated. Oh, and thanks for the wish of luck. I think I'm going to need it.

  9. I'm not at all versed in writing a synopses. I guess I did that sort of thing when I was in school regarding other works, but never my own. I can see where it could be very good exercise.

    I'll be so tied up with April that taking on any additional reading would be beyond me right now. As you might know I do have a fascination with memoir. In case you are interested I do welcome guest posting at my memoir blog.

    Arlee Bird
    A to Z Challenge Co-host
    Wrote By Rote

  10. I think so too, Lee. A synopsis helps the writer understand fully the scope of her story be it memoir or fiction.

    And thank you, Lee, for inviting me to guest post on your memoir blog. I jumped over there to leave you a comment to your post and will join the A to Z challenge. Thanks for visiting my Adventures in Writing blog and leaving a comment. It is greatly appreciated.

  11. Hello and welcome to my Adventures in Writing blog, Bill. Thank you for your comment. The memoir should be ready for beta readers in a few days. This is very much appreciated. Thanks again for volunteering to read the manuscript.


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